Retracing – photobook and slideprojection

Retracing book from Rein Jelle on Vimeo. On the list Best Photobooks of 2013, by Willem van Zoetendaal, and nominated for the Dutch Doc Award, 2014.

The book and slide-projection Retracing are part of a wider investigation into perception, memory, photography, and the absence of images.
Up until now, this has resulted in After Images, with stories about photographs that were never taken; the archive of amateur images (55.000 slides); Dark Dunes; This is a Good Spot; and a proposal for a museums photo archive involving darkening photographs.
In Retracing I am working with people who are about to lose their eyesight. I have asked them about images that are valuable to them. How would they like to remember these images and how can they do this? In a sense, I am looking over their shoulders to photograph the things they point out: the things they see, but also the things they still think they see or would like to see.

These images include the sea, someone’s handwriting, the reflection in a mirror of a young woman applying make-up to her eyes, the view from the window, the studio of a decorative painter, and much more.
All the images were shot on Kodachrome slides in 2010. Besides having special colours and sharpness, Kodachrome is known to last long. These images of light outlast human memory, which after all lasts only one lifetime.
I was able to have the films developed just in time in America, at the only lab that still provided the service. They stopped developing this famous stock for good on 31 December 2010.
I will present this – analogue – series as a slideshow installation with multiple projectors.

For the people I work with in this project this is an urgent theme. For them, perception is no longer a given and has become a precious thing. Photography’s role of preserving images here becomes an ambivalent one.
Two human motives for photography – the wish to document special moments and show the results to others – now have a different effect. For that reason I want to follow up this project and document it.
I keep in touch with these people. I give them prints of the slides and in a couple of years I will tell them about these prints. I will describe the photographs carefully in words, in an iconographic way, so that the images can be invoked in their heads through language.

‘Blindness is like a giant vacuum cleaner that takes over your life and sucks up almost everything. Your memories, your interests, your idea of time and how you would like to spend it, the places themselves, even the world; everything is hoovered away. Your consciousness is being emptied.’

John Hull in Touching the Rock (1990), the book in which he describes how all images gradually disappeared from his head after he went blind. Within just a couple of years, Hull had forgotten what his family or his house looked like .

The Photobook Retracing

Cloth, 22 x 30 cm, 88 pages
Lay-out: Joost Grootens
Essays by Hanne Hagenaars & Arjen Mulder
ISBN: 9789460830761 (English edition)
publisher: post editions
Price: € 34,50

Eyecurious by Marc Feustel
The Photobook Club Matt Johnston
theloggingroad Mirelle Thijssen
Remembering what you see Colin Pantall

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